Baby Grace

training wheels oneSomewhere along the way, I came across the notion that learning proceeds in four stages.

First, you know very little, but you’re also unaware of the extent of your ignorance. Like a kid with a new toy, your rocket around, delighting in the two or three facts or abilities you’ve mastered. I played the C scale by the hour when I started piano lessons–it was magic to me, and I was only dimly aware that dozens of other scales (if you count all the different minor scales) were yet to be mastered.

Second, you become aware of those other scales, of the distance between that C scale and the Emperor Concerto, and that distance training wheels twomatters. Your reckless glee fades to something more humble, maybe even to a sense of failure, because you’re not as a good as you thought you were.

Third, if you don’t quit, you stagger beneath the realization that you don’t know jack, and you may never know jack. Your ignorance far outpaces your learning, and probably always will. This phase is where we decide to either double down and learn the daylights out of a subject, or we walk away, appreciative and somewhat skilled, but far short of passionate. In this phase, we’re often more competent than we perceive, but we can training wheels threelack confidence.

Fourth, your persistence and passion pay off. You’re extremely competent, and you know it. You’re so competent, everybody else pretty much knows it too, and probably pays you to exercise your skill or talent.

As a child welfare attorney, I’ve paid my dues. I’m no genius, but I know my craft. As a writer, I feel I’m hovering between stages two and three–I know some good stuff and I’m working hard, but I have a long way to go. As a mom, I’m not a novice, but does anybody ever master parenting?

With the release of Trenton: Lord of Loss, I’m a self-published writer, firmly back in stage training wheels fourone. I know very, very little, but my glee is boundless: Look Ma, no publishing house! (Though I’m still working with a traditional house on other projects and don’t foresee that relationship ending.)

Intellectually, I know I’ll hit bumps as a self-published author, maybe some really big, mean bumps. I’ll probably fall off my bike a time or two, but in my heart, the sheer joy of embarking on a new journey, of packing  my PBJ, clean socks, a canteen and a book and heading out the door is delightful. It has been decades since I’ve started a new adventure, and given myself permission to succeed, fail, or both, so long as I get moving in pursuit of a dream.

Freestyler Emma McFerran

Freestyler Emma McFerran

This is… what’s the word? It’s on the tip of my…. this is FUN!

If money were not an issue, if health were not an issue, if you could march out in pursuit of a dream, what would it be? And if one of your dreams is posting a blog on this site, then please email me. I’ll be traveling a lot in the next few months, and an occasional guest post would be a big help.

To one commenter, I’ll send a $50 Amazon gift card.


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86 comments on “Baby Grace

  1. A very timely question, Grace. I’ve been trying to figure out for the past few months what my new dreams are, now that I’ve achieved the dream of crafting my own work life and being responsible to myself for it. I don’t have a big overarching dream to replace it yet, and looking at other people’s “bucket list” ideas reminds me of how very much I have already accomplished in my life — a wonderful feeling.

    Smaller dreams I’m working on: living more fully in my body and becoming more fit, a dream trip to Scotland (your trip last year got me thinking about it more!), and learning to tango.

    I guess at this point I’m trying to figure out what the boundaries of my comfort zone are — and what will stretch me beyond them!

  2. I’m living part of my dream: I’m a librarian and I love my job, I just want to do it less hours per week so I can enjoy other parts of my life equally!

    • The old balance challenge. I tell myself when that’s the issue, I’m doing something right. It’s as you say–only so much time, but so many enjoyable, meaningful ways to spend it.

  3. Hmmm.

    A great question to mull over with my Sunday cup of coffee.

    Travel, breed a champion corgi and write.

    My grandmother spoke of Ireland and I can imagine what her life was like before she travelled to the States. I would love to travel to Ireland, Scotland and Wales. See the sights, buy a hand knit sweater ( to replace my old worn out one) and spend some time in a pub enjoying the music and the food.

    It’s my goal to breed, show and finish a corgi. I have not accomplished this goal but look forward to doing so.

    I am an avid reader. I have a degree in English and was an editor for many years. I would love to have the time to write a children’s novel.

    • Sue, I love that bucket list, and it’s entirely do-able, too. I’m thinking about a children’s novel built around dog shows. I learned A LOT showing livestock and horses, had some fun, worked very hard. Not quite sure how to get that trip to Ireland in there… maybe the prize money will pay for a trip for the protag and Granny to see the old sod?

  4. Hi Grace! I so loved this. When I retired from teaching French a few years ago, I decided to dedicate all my time and efforts to doing what I really love – playing the Celtic harp and singing Scottish and Scots Gaelic songs – and becoming really good at it. I think I’m finally getting to stage four since more and more people seem to be willing to pay me to do what I do and to teach them to do it too. I still have a LONG way to go but unlike many of the other goals I’ve pursued in my life, this one continues to be FUN, inspiring, exciting and just plain great! I’m loving every minute and can’t wait to see where this adventure will take me next. So, three cheers for going after what you really want in life and for working hard to be the very best you can be!!

    • We get so little reinforcement for paying attention to joy, and yet, it’s often the brightest beacon to the truest form of ourselves. I’m the same way about writing–if I’m working on a book, even a book that’s fighting me, I’m happy. Forget to eat, forget to move, forget to answer the phone, HAPPY.

  5. Good for you on the traveling a lot. I love traveling.
    And a big congratulations on your ”self pub” success. Trenton is on my kindle. 🙂
    Have fun out there on your adventures.

  6. Travel!!! That would be my dream life. How can a introvert want to trave? I don’t know how it will go, but I really want to travel. My dream would be to travel once a year to places in the USA and once a year to another Country. There are so many places and things I want to see! I think it comes from being a reader, which really is the next best thing as going to all of the place I dream of going to. Maybe some day… As I have learned in life, you just never know what is around the corner in life. I was bragging on your blog posts to Bronwen Evans, the other day on FB! I just love your thought provoking post on your website!

    • I think we should go visit Bron down there in Kiwi land. The Australian Romance Writers group (Kiwis included) is a wild, crazy, fun bunch of talented people, and I’d love to attend their conference some time.

  7. Actually, I am trying to make a dream a reality. I’ve long wanted to write and publish, and I have a huge snippet file of pieces of prompts from a couple of web writing groups I belong to. Big part of the joy for me is that I have been writing, continuously, on one project for a month now. It’s nowhere near anything but I am writing, and my ideas are spilling to words, and this feeling may fade but I am finding this first real attempt joyful.

    • GO BRENDA!!! I had no intention of pursuing publication when I started to write. I simply thought I could write something as good as some of what I’d read, and there was this marquis in my head, a naughty, handsome fellow, and a spinster came to him intent on being ruined.

      Write me, the story whispered. When the whisper grew to a shout, I opened a word file and started typing, but I was mostly having fun.

      I still am. Best of luck and keep us posted. Feel free to email me at [email protected] if you have questions I might be able to answer.

      I MEAN THAT.

  8. My dream would be to travel the world and learn more about other countries and their cultures. I also wish I had taken another language instead of Latin in high school. I know you’re never too old to learn new things, but at 63, I don’t think learning French would really be an asset. One of my earlier dreams was to go to Nashville and be “discovered”. I did some singing with country bands when we lived in Mississippi and Oklahoma, and my husband was very supportive, but with three young children it just seemed too big a challenge to undertake at the time. Now I am enjoying my retirement years and spending more time with grandchildren and taking on more of the things I enjoy doing like reading and crocheting things for family and friends.

    • I took Latin too, and it’s a good foundation for Spanish, French and Portuguese. Why not take a French class for the fun of it? You might get to Montreal sooner than you think…?

  9. to my the fear of not succeeding far surpasses the fear of failing – we fail at many things we try. But to succeed at something is a great feeling. We need to get over the fear of failing – succeeding does not mean better than anybody else or particularly talented at something it means you reached a goal that means something to you. If money were of no object I would pack up tomorrow and hit the road – there are too many wonderful things to see and experience and learn about

    • A success is a failure who didn’t give up, right? An adventure is a little old lady who didn’t stay home. A fairy tale is a toad who kept puckering up.

      I’d better stop there.

  10. Wow, that is great! Being self-published is scary but you will do well! I am an Accountant (always loved working with numbers since a child)…I remember doing Income Tax Returns manually in College (to practice my skill–lol)..Over the years, I have worked in the accounting field (but made an ethical decision to use my talent/skill in areas that I believed in)…I remember how good it felt to do electronic taxes when my Mom was aged & doing her own was too much for her (it made settling her estate much easier when she died unexpectedly). I have continued to do pro bono taxes for family & friends–I enjoy learning new aspects of my field & everyone is so thankful for the assistance (recently, I was able to help someone struggling while separated & divorced as her husband always handled all of that). This year, a friend is a widow & she is having taxes handled out-of-state where she lives. I have fielded questions over the phone & allowed her to consider options available to her (& to discuss with her lawyer)…I realize I have a talent for the financial areas & want to be able to continue helping others even after I retire.

    • Ev, that is saintly work you do. When I do divorce mediation, the couple will often talk about the kids, the jobs, the health, even the intimate aspects of marriage (ARGH–TMI!), before they can talk about money.

      My accountant is one of the nicest, most hardworking guys I’ve come across, and as a small potatoes attorney, I also feel like he’s one of few allies in my business undertakings.

      So happy April 15th to you, and keep up the good work!

  11. As far as this reader is concerned, you are on the top but I guess there is always room to grow. Just learning something new everyday is an accomplishment. I honestly don’t know what I would do if money were no question because it probably always will be. But to play along maybe building an animal shelter to care for all those in need.

    • Cats, I don’t think it’s playing along. I think without dreams, we go into a kind of hibernation that shouldn’t last too long. When you look after the strays, you’re taking real steps to improve the lives of animals who didn’t ask to be abandoned or graced with a fifth batch of kittens.

      That matters. If you volunteer one morning a week at the no kill shelter, that matters. If you leave dollar in the donation jar at the shelter, that matters.

      It all adds up, and I think intentions count for more than we can see. (My kitties say the same.)

  12. Are you having fun or are you having F. U. N. (spelled in complete deadpan by a student)? Or does it go back and forth?

    Preservation is the first thing that comes to mind. Preservation of historic documents, buildings, sites. Can you do that while living in a micropolis (you know that place between living in the city and living in the country)?

    Copy editing also is kind of appealing. I would never have majored in English in college. I used to say I don’t like writing, what I mean is I don’t like being *made* to write (Especially when you want to dissect a story. Can’t we just enjoy the story without trying to make everything symbolize something else.) But now I find myself drawn to it more and more. I’m not good enough to write novels but I wouldn’t mind being good enough to help good stories make it to print. I have a fear of what seems to be happening to written language in this age of social media.

    • Sabrina, if I said you, “I’m not good enough to enter a 5K,” what would your response be?

      That said, there’s a screaming demand for competent copy editors. I don’t mind telling you that $800 per manuscript is going rate for copy editing–not proofreading, no developmental editing, not line editing. Simply bringing the manuscript into conformity with standard English will net you that much. The good copy eds I know are turning away business.

      Gives you something to think about, I hope.

      • Lovely lawyer technique. Asking those questions you already know the answers to.

        And that does give me something to think about. Thanks.

  13. Grace I don’t think I’ve mastered being a mother and I’m a grandmother five to m rd over and number six is due in late October! The picture of the cold on the bike was cute as I took my oldest three granddaughters to a family.only health fair yesterday and they were all given bicycle elements, now we need to get them bikes. The oldest thinks their dad will buy them bikes but I’ve got the feeling he’ll balk because he feels the tiny bit of child support he pays should cover everything they need or want. I just ordered Trenton and hope it doesn’t show until Tuesday when it’s supposed to be clear again.

    • Does anybody master parenting?

      My parents were rolling along, started with twin boys, then a girl, six years later another boy… NOTHING prepared them for the fourth child. They thought they knew a thing or two, but for that fourth kid, they were clueless, and dumbstruck. It pretty much stayed that way for the duration with him.

      I hear ya on the child support. Like you can raise a kid on $100 a month? Oh, right. Sure…

  14. I would become proficient on my guitar and strengthen my singing (somehow) and I would use these tools to help people of all ages manage stress and live through difficult times.

  15. My dream would be to update & decorate my house. I would also like to be able to take my family on a nice vacation every year! Maybe simple dreams, but something that hasn’t been possible lately. Good luck with the new publishing venture!

      • One of my neighbors did that. It is a large initial cost, but I think it pays for itself in 5 years or something. The panels made it through Hurricane Sandy!

  16. Oh Grace Congratulations on your new adventure!!! I am glad for you!! Go forth my friend! I have no doubts that your great stories will continue to be a great hit!

    For me if I could really do it, with money not being the problem I would open my own Wound Care clinic – complete with a Wound Care Doctors, Wound Care Nurses, a Podiatrist, Ostomy Nurses and Women’s Health … specially to treat incontinence… another huge problem.
    A clinic that would service all people… insured and non insured… no matter what.
    Besides that I would also love to open a Doll Boutique – I love making clothes for dolls – American Girl dolls… I would like to have a place that little girls could come for a birthday party, tea parties and invite their friends for reading stories and just being girls… plain and simple… I would love to have a way to give specially girls with physical disabilities a safe and supporting place to play… doing nails, hair … just being a kid… and specially be a place of healing… I so believe that one can create enough good memories to outnumber the bad ones…

    On learning: ha, I so totally believe my limitations… I am one of this people that MUST specialize on some area and being an expert… I don’t like being a nurse generalist… I so need to feel like I know enough to be an expert…

    • Kassia, it was from a nurse that first heard the saying, “helping is the sunny side of control.” That gal needed to be an expert on everything, and the load soon grew to be too much.

      Your wound care clinic sounds like a wonderful place. After my dad’s appendix ruptured (at age 91) the wound care people were literally the life or death of him, and they came through like champs.

      • Grace,

        One of the best things (my opninion 🙂 ) is that wound care you get to do it. Its not like other aspects of nursing where so much depends on patient compliance ( well, I should say that even for a wound to heal there are things the patient has to do like increase protein intake, keep dressing intact etc. ) but the thing is I get to do the dressing to evaluate the wound etc… love it.
        I am so glad your experience with your dad’s nurses were a good one! Make me proud of being a nurse!
        I am old enough 🙂 to know that I can never be an expert nurse … you can definitely master some aspect of nursing but this profession is absolutely too big and too diverse to know it all. I would never pretend even!!!

        I look at Florence Nightingale legacy – a woman so ahead of her time and find it amazing that with basically no resources like we have today that woman revolutionized and basically wrote the manual of nursing… really a great inspiration… One of my dreams is to go to England and visit the hospital where she practiced!

  17. I would love to see the world and go on archaeological digs to discover artifacts that might confirm or challenge our current views about history.

    • Meredith Duran, whose books I enjoy very much, is an archeologist. I’m not sure I could take the field work, but I love the insights we gain from archeology, and the connection to the past.

  18. Hmmm…. If money and health were not issues I guess traveling would be my big dream. I’ve seen some of the world, but there is a whole lot I haven’t. My dreams are pretty modest.

    But I’m really excited about yours. You are a fine, fine writer Grace, and I can only see you getting better. Looking forward to many more books by you.

  19. My dream is to move to Panama to be with the man that I have loved since we were 16. Many obstacles have prevented this one of which is money. I want to retire with him there to spend the rest of our lives together.

  20. Oh wow, if I could pursue my dreams – it would have to do with books. My sister and I have dreamed of running a book store together (probably new and used) and selling handcrafted gifts as well. Things we both love and would enjoy being around. Getting to talk books and crafts with customers would be so much fun, it wouldn’t be work at all. My other long time dream is to travel to Europe, especially Great Britain. With enough money and continued good health, it would be wonderful to see all those places I’ve read about for so many years.

    • Barbara, the oldest family owned independent bookstore in the USA is Warwicks’s in La Jolla. They’ve survived with two basic strategies: First, they’re also a gift shop. Every time you go in there, the inventory on the gift side as a little something you haven’t seen before, something from far away, or something just to clever or pretty to pass up.

      The other thing they do really, really well is integrate themselves into the community. They have story hour for the kids, author readings, read your owns… you name it, if a book is involved, they’ll try to host it in the store.

      If they can do it…

  21. Great post, Grace! It reminds me of a paper weight (that I wish I had bought) which said, “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?”

    My life is currently in a state of flux and that’s okay. I was recently moved to part-time, and after I got over my terror, I realized that time is way more valuable than money. So I’m in the process of figuring out what I want to be when I grow up.

    Congratulations on your self-publishing achievement. I wish you continued success.

  22. Honestly, I would love to travel: across the country; across the continent; across other continents. Even if we did it in an RV (which would allow us to bring along the pets) I’d love to visit pretty much all the state and national parks as well as pretty much all historical locations.

    • There is SO MUCH to marvel at and learn from right here. I try to catch one new sight on each trip, whether it’s driving through Sedona on the way to Flagstaff or walking the Denver Botanical gardens when I visit my daughter.

      You never know what little treat will fix itself in your imagination and stay with you for years.

  23. This hit true to heart, Grace. I think I’m stuck between Stage 2 and 3 currently, but I hope I can eventually progress to Stage 4.

    My dream would be to travel around the world in search of the novel, the unique, and take pictures of breathtaking scenes on the way. I would also love to be able to speak many more languages and have friends around the world. That would be a great way to spend my sunset hours. 🙂

    • Queen Victoria tackled Hindu when she was at or near age 80. If she can do it.. of course, she already had English, French, German, and I don’t know how many other languages.

      I’d like to be a buyer for some place like 10,000 Villages or the National Geographic catalogue.

    • Traveling makes the world a smaller, friendlier place, usually. I can’t think of a trip I’ve taken when I haven’t learned something, even if it’s to appreciate the functional plumbing I take for granted at home.

  24. Grace I love your writing the characters are so easy to visualize and I wish you the best on your new adventure. If money was no object I would open a ranch for homeless and lost women and children. It would have all the things needed to teach them how to be on their own and give them self esteem. I currently work as an adult caregiver it pays very little but fulfills my heart. I have always been a mentor for kids and teens.I can’t walk away from a person in need and my kids tell me all the time to slow down I can’t save the world.I became a mother at 15 and I worked hard to raise my children I didn’t have to rely on state aid and I’ve always found a way to help others.Now my children are grown two of them have kids of their own and they think I’m amazing.So I feel like I’ve reached a dream I didn’t start with but am very proud of.I also have the love from all the young people I’ve helped over the years.Everyone thinks I’m crazy because the only thing I request for myself is a good book and a bubble bath. Should I ask for more?

    • When I was up to my ears in single parenting, working full time, keeping up a house, running my own business, all the blah, blah of adulthood, what often kept me going was knowing I had an hour after Herself went to sleep to read the newest Mary Balogh or Loretta Chase. I consider those ladies (among others), my daughter’s honorary godmothers, and as long as I had a good book, I had something to look forward to.

      With that, you can endure a lot. I love your ranch idea. Something about the beasts is good for us when we’re hurting.

  25. I would love to travel for a year. I would like to learn five different languages (proficiently!) and converse with others about how different their lives are

  26. My portfolio cover for culinary school states this quote…

    “The more I know, the more I realize I don’t know. At some point, I hope to learn enough to realize that I know nothing at all. Then maybe I’ll be able to snatch the pebble from Julia Child’s hand.”

    Can’t stop learning and reaching.
    Best of luck on your new learning and reaching!!
    And safe and happy travels!

    • My dad’s analogy is the ever widening darkness. You have a flash light, but the more you peek around here and there, the greater is your sense of vastness about that darkness…. and that can be lovely, like the night sky.

  27. I loathe traveling and shy away from all of that hassle- but, I’ll bet that if I just pushed myself and did it more often, I’d be a champion at it and love it. There are so many places that I want to see and experience. If there were no obstacles, I’d be that platinum frequent flyer, perfect packer and world traveler.

    Also.. Congratulations! Self-publishing is a huge deal! You’re going to rock it!

    • Alexandra, I’m not at all keen on common carrier flying. Scares the dickens out of me, especially when you travel over oceans. I do much better with trains, which particularly in the UK are magnificent. They go ’bout 100 miles an hour on some routes, have internet, a free snack cart… I could learn to enjoy train travel.

      As for the driving, ask me when I’m clear of the California freeways again.

    • Gretchen, I’m ahead of you on that one, and unless you’re an IT professional or petroleum engineer, it’s not so easy to make happen.

      Seems every Polish/Hungarian/Serbian kid in the EU is flocking to the UK, and they compete for jobs on equal footing with the locals. Makes for a lot of cultural variety, but immigrants from outside the EU will find it harder to join the party.

  28. My dream would be to teach History on a High School level.
    Because of practical concerns, I probably won’t teach until after I retire. I get to do some teaching on a volunteer basis, which I really enjoy, I think it is my true gift.

  29. I have so many dreams that it’s not even funny anymore!! LOL I would say my first would be to travel the world. Visit each and every one of the of those archeological sites everyone talks about. Visit Castles, pyramids, ruins, moors, bars, museums, tombs, etc, etc. And then, come back home and continue on with another dream 😉

    • What a bunch of frustrated vagabonds we are! I might have to organize a tour for us, something fun, not too expensive, hit the interesting places and not just the popular places. I’m thinking… Scotland, for starters.

  30. I just love reading anything you write including your blogs. I’m too old but if I could have done anything in the world I wanted it would have been to be a jet pilot in an F14 tomcat. I’ve watched Tom Gun and Iron Eagle so many times I turned the grandson into a Navy officer, yes, he was force to watch along side. 😉
    All the best though you won’t need wishes. Enjoy the success in your new venture.

  31. It was my dream growing up to be an archeologist. I think I watched Indiana Jones too many times as a kid. I was looking into it very seriously. Glad I decided to go the route I have chosen now. I have my husband and my son and I am always home, that wouldn’t have been the case if I would have go into archeology

    • Meredith Duran, who is an archeologist, has written some of her books in the middle of digs. Don’t know how she does that, particularly with spotty internet. When you need to google something, you NEED to google it!

      I don’t think I could be an archeologist, because there’s an element of sadness about all their wonder. The discoveries, the insights, the beautiful treasures they unearth, the people who gave them to us are all gone.

  32. I want to thank you for many hours of wonderful reading. I look forward to each new book, sometime patiently, mostly not. Having just finished Trenton, and read the beginning on Worth, I again can’t wait. Will Worth be available for Kindle?
    Again thank you for many hours of wonderful reading.

    • Linda, thanks for those generous sentiments. Every book can’t work for every reader, and a lot of an author’s career depends on finding those readers for whom the book do, consistently, work.

      As for Worth (and Hadrian, and Matthew, and Axel, and Thomas….) YES, they will all be available in print, on Kindle, NOOK, Kobo, and (eventually) iBooks.

      And then we have to decide which ones to make into audio books….

  33. No particular dream calling to me at the moment but I just wanted to encourage you to keep pursuing your writing dream because it makes many people so very happy. And congratulations on the self publishing achievement. Blogs are great food for thought, too!

    • Thanks Jen. I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to be a writer because it’s what I did by the day and by the hour without even considering that it might generate revenue. If I go for more than few days without working on a book, I get twitchy.

      I love that.

  34. Congrat’s on the self-pub… I loved Trenton! That said, I have no idea what I would do. Actually I have been thinking on this recently. I am now fully recovered physically and retired, I need to find something that gives me reason. I’ll keep thinking on it, being idle has never been my way, if anything I have always been the one folks point to and say “does she ever slow down?”…

    • Georgie, somebody once asked me, “When was the last time you were happy? When was the last time you were so absorbed in doing something that you forgot the time, you didn’t want to quit even to eat, answer the phone, or visit the facilities? Do THAT.”

      I was not in good shape at the time, and the last time I’d been THAT happy was when I’d been a teenager on a horse. So I got another horse (twenty years later), and the trend in life satisfaction has been upward ever since.

  35. Acting. Hands down, my ultimate dream is to spend my life auditioning, rehearsing and performing – I love everything about it!

    • So you’re all over the local theater group, right? I played pit piano in junior high and high school, and found it fascinating. There really are no people like show people, but that crash at the end of the run? I did not like that at ALL.

  36. My dream? I’d do what you are doing – write. Hopefully someone would enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it. I love this blog, by the way. I’m sending Successful-Self-Publishing thoughts your way. I’m sure you know jack. Perhaps you can introduce us someday.